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OCC's new president is focused on enrollment, workforce education, and new programs

New Onondaga Community College President Dr. Warren Hilton.
Scott Willis
New Onondaga Community College President Dr. Warren Hilton.

Monday marks the start of a new academic year for many colleges and universities across Central New York. Among them is Onondaga Community College. It also marks the first semester on the job for OCC’s new president Dr. Warren Hilton.

He’s spent the past two months getting to know people on and off campus, from lawmakers and business leaders to school district administrators and members of the community. He said understanding what they need from the institution helps him to tackle one of his key priorities: increasing enrollment.

“It's critically important to, you know, understand what people need in terms of getting them to enroll,” Hilton said. “Enrollment has been decreasing here and at other community colleges, and quite frankly, many four year institutions, you know, dating back to 2012, 2013. Individuals are kind of speaking with their feet."

Hilton said workforce education is one way to get people in the door. He says the new home health aide and CNA programs can be a quick path to a job.

“These are programs where individuals in three to five weeks, three weeks for the home health [and] five weeks for the CNA certified nursing assistant, can get the training. They need to go out and be gainfully employed and in fields with critical shortages,” Hilton said.

He said nearly 75% of seniors and those with disabilities who need a home health aide can’t get one. Hilton said there’s been some interest in the degree and certificate programs in these early stages, but they are planning marketing campaigns to get the word out.

OCC has a proud and successful tradition of athletics. But some might be surprised to know that e-sports is now part of its line-up.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students who want to get into competitive gaming. It's one of the fastest growing intercollegiate sports. And the joke that I made this morning was, you know, I wanted to call my mom, and tell her all those times she told me to stop playing video games when I was a kid that she was wrong. That there are professionals now who are making good money in competitive video gaming,” Hilton said.

In addition to athletics and academics, Hilton said they’re also focused on the physical and mental well-being of students, faculty and staff.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at